Bela Fleck and the Flecktones create their unique sound by drawing from a variety of genres, including jazz, folk, bluegrass, rock, funk, and classical. That mix covers just about all the sounds the first Lincoln-Mercury American Music Festival will offer today through Sunday at Bubier Park in Fort Lauderdale. The most notable acts are country folks like the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Marty Stuart, Trace Adkins, and Pam Tillis, but plenty of regional and local acts will round out the bill. Also on tap are a pumpkin patch, a scarecrow-making booth, dancing, hayrides, a bake-off, and art displays. Yee-haw. Festival hours are 5 to 11 p.m. today, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday. Admission is $15 per day, $20 for two days, $30 for three days (subtract $5 for advance purchase). The park is located at Andrews Avenue and Las Olas Boulevard. Call 954-761-5813.
When it comes to cashing in on kiddie entertainment, you've got to hand it to the brain trust at Disney. Limited theatrical and video releases of its animated films ensure that the public is always itching for more. Merchandising tie-ins add even more to the pot. And, as if the company weren't raking in enough money already, it's found yet another format to help pump up profits: the touring stage show. Walt Disney Theatrical Productions' first project is Disney's Beauty and the Beast, which opens this weekend and continues through November 29 at the Broward Center For the Performing Arts (201 SW Fifth Ave., Fort Lauderdale). In typical fairy-tale fashion, the title beast, menacing but lovable, must love and be loved to break the spell that turned him from a young prince into a monster. Heroine Belle is his chance at salvation. Ticket prices range from $15 to $60. The curtain rises at 8 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday and 6:30 p.m. Sunday; matinees begin at 2 p.m. Wednesday and Saturday, 1 p.m. Sunday. Call 954-462-0222.
Moon on a Rainbow Shawl isn't a surprising choice of shows for director and theater owner Vinnette Carroll. The theater vet conceived and directed the '70s Broadway hits Don't Bother Me, I Can't Cope and Your Arms Are Too Short to Box With God, both of which deal with the problems and accomplishments of African-Americans. In reviving Errol John's Shawl, she tackles the same issues, only in a different setting. While Carroll's shows were set in the United States, Shawl tells the story of Trinidadian Sophia Adams. The feisty matron and her family struggle to survive in a society in which race and class impact every aspect of daily life. The Vinnette Carroll Repertory Company presents the play during the final weekend of its run at Vinnette Carroll Theatre, 503 SE Sixth St., Fort Lauderdale. Tickets cost $10 and $15. Showtimes are Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 4 p.m. Call 954-462-2424.
You may not know his name, but you've probably seen his art. Maybe you've even noticed the subliminal messages in the cartoonish paintings by the Rev. Howard Finster, who claims that in 1976 God told him to create art that would help spread the Word. After teaching himself to paint, Finster, now age 78, wasted no time implementing the plan. His pieces hang in the National Museum of American Art and in prestigious private collections, but millions of copies of his works appear in less formal settings -- in CD racks, for instance. Finster's art decorates the covers of the Talking Heads' Little Creatures and R.E.M.'s Reckoning. In fact, when the members of R.E.M. were still college lads playing pizza joints, they often hung out at Finster's compound, Paradise Garden, in Summerville, Georgia. Large-format versions of the album covers and other Finster works are on view in "Rev. Howard Finster, Man of Visions" at Gallery 721, 721 E. Broward Blvd., Fort Lauderdale, through November 15. Admission is free. For hours call 954-765-0721.
Even in the most "liberal" of environments, such as a college English class, students tend to get a bit uptight and perhaps engage in self-censorship when it comes to writing about homosexuality. So says lesbian novelist Karen Dale Wolman, author of Rites of First Blood (1995) and a creative-writing teacher at Florida Atlantic University. Her solution: Short Story Writing For Lesbians and Gays, a six-week workshop that will cover the usual topics -- character and plot development, setting -- while encouraging writers to relax. "[Participants] certainly don't have to write about gay and lesbian topics," Wolman says. But the workshop will allow them to hang out with other gay writers in a cozy, book-lined room. "The coffeehouse is a really great atmosphere, and I don't have to give grades," Wolman notes. "The people that come to the class will be there because they want to learn the writing, not because they have to earn a credit." Cost is $95. The class meets from 7 to 9 p.m. at Archives Book Cafe, Gateway Shopping Center, 1948 E. Sunrise Blvd., Fort Lauderdale. To register call 954-567-8416.